(Ukrainian Orthodox priests conduct a holy liturgy during an Orthodox Easter service in Mikhailovsky Cathedral in Kiev early April 20, 2014. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko)

As Russians and Ukrainians celebrated Easter on Sunday with their nations locked in conflict, the head of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate condemned Russian “aggression” and said “evil” would be defeated.

“Against our peace-loving nation, which voluntarily gave up nuclear weapons, there has been aggression, there has been injustice,” Patriarch Filaret said in his Easter message, as quoted by local media. “A country which guaranteed the integrity and inviolability of our territory has committed aggression.

“God cannot be on the side of evil, so the enemy of the Ukrainian people is condemned to defeat,” he said. “Lord, help us resurrect Ukraine.”

It was a strikingly outspoken intervention at a time when many Ukrainians said they were praying for peace with their former Soviet neighbor on a day when Christians celebrate Jesus rising from the dead after his crucifixion.